Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “The Israelis Tried for Peace. The Israelis Tried Everything.”

Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the United States from 2005-2009 and Director of the Hoover Institution, joined the Guy Benson Show to discuss the huge news surrounding the attacks on Israel via Hamas terrorists. Rice speaks for the first time on the topic, and she discusses why Biden’s current policies in the region has led to the surprise attacks. Benson and Rice also discuss the difference between the Hamas attacks and the Israeli counterattacks in the country. Listen to the full interview below, live from the Hoover Institution.

Full Interview:

Listen to the full podcast:

Rice had this to say on why the US needs to stay out of controlling Israel’s response to Hamas:

“The Israelis tried for peace. The Israelis tried everything. Innocent Palestinians don’t deserve this. They are not represented by a terrorist group who keeps them poor and keeps them isolated… Maybe this time people will wise up and see Hamas and the terrorists for what they are.”

Full Transcript:

GUY BENSON, FOX RADIO HOST: Well, joining me here in studio at Hoover is the director of the Hoover Institution. She’s served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, also National Security Advisor, she’s a best-selling author, an incredibly accomplished person and we are delighted and honored to welcome back to the show, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
Great to have you, Madam Secretary.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
BENSON: I have to ask you for your reaction to the events of this past weekend is Israel.
RICE: Well, these are really shocking events. Guy, I was either National Security Advisor or Secretary for five different Gaza crises, but nothing like this. The sophistication of this attack — land, sea and air — the brutality of this attack, to go into Israeli towns near the border, places like Sderot (ph) and to execute people in their homes, to attack a music festival; this was barbaric and brutality of a kind that we didn’t see in those other crises.
It’s something that the state of Israel I think is rightly in shock. And I was very glad to see that President Biden said the words that I think everyone needed to hear, the United States stands with Israel.
BENSON: Let’s say for a moment you were still in one of those positions. You were National Security Advisor, you were Secretary of State, and this had happened while you were serving and you got a phone call from your Israeli counterpart or from the Israeli Prime Minister, trying to take the temperature of the U.S. and what Israel ought to do and asking for your counsel, what would you say given the details that you just referred to about what just happened, so brutally and shockingly on Saturday?
RICE: The first thing I would say is this is not a time for the United States to tell the Israelis what to do in the context of their democracy and their response to this attack. And especially how they now are going to secure themselves.
Obviously, I think the so-called mop-up operations are still going on. There are undoubtedly still terrorists on the loose around these Israeli cities, and so they will have to deal with that.
The next question is going to be, how will Israel decide militarily to go after Hamas. What will they do in order to destroy the leadership of Hamas? What will they do in order to destroy the infrastructure of the leadership of Hamas?
One could imagine, for instance, command and control elements in Gaza that perhaps they will want to destroy. I’m certain they’ll try to go after some of the leadership of Hamas and of Palestinian Islamic Gihad, which is the younger but, in some ways, more brutal brother of Hamas.
And so I think we should do what I hope we’re doing and what I think we’re doing, which is to say we will supply and resupply ammunition. We will continue to share what we can in terms of intelligence. But if you want to discuss with us how you now are going to carry this out, we are open to listening.
It’s going to be very hard now to try to micromanage what the Israelis are going to do in response. And I don’t, frankly, think we should.
I can remember, Guy, telling the Israelis, you know that a ground incursion into Hamas — or into the Gaza will be very bloody, it’ll be very difficult — in fact, cautioning against a ground incursion at the time.
But this is of an order of magnitude different. And so I suspect that you’re going to see Israeli tanks in Gaza.
BENSON: One of the critiques that I’ve seen of the president’s speech earlier, which overall I gave high marks, I’ve given poor marks on almost all the policy and much of what he’s done. The speech today was good. But he did not mention Iran.
RICE: Yeah.
BENSON: You’ve seen The Wall Street Journal report. There was additional reporting in The Washington Post. Hamas has boasted of Iran’s involvement. Iran’s leadership was cheering on the attack. Iran state media put out celebrations today of a thousand Israelis killed.
Iran’s fingerprints are either partially on this attack or all over this attack. It seems more likely like it’s the latter.
No mention of that from the administration. What’s going on there?
RICE: The moment this happened and I learned of this I said, Iran’s fingerprints are all over this attack. And there are a couple reasons for that.
One is Iran had every reason to try to arrest the potential rapprochement (ph) or potential reconciliation of Saudi Arabia and Israel. That was moving quite, quite nicely. That built on the Abraham Accords, which had been negotiated in the Trump administration, that you were moving to a place where maybe the Gulf Arabs were going to end their state of war with Israel.
That would not have been in Iran’s interest. So the first thing you can say is, who would be the biggest spoiler in this? It would be Iran.
Secondly, I do not see how Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad could have planned something of this magnitude, of this sophistication, without the help of the Iranians, particularly the help of the IRGC, of the Quds Force, as the Iranians themselves call it the armed fist of the Iranian revolution.
So I think their fingerprints are all over this. Now, the depth of it, do we know, were they directing this, were they simply training and equipping and helping to plan? We don’t know those details. But I probably would have, had I been President Biden, at least said and state sponsors of this kind of terrorism. And the Iranians would have known who that meant.
BENSON: Everyone would have.
RICE: Everyone would have known. The United States will also not tolerate state sponsors of terrorism in this.
That would have allowed, I think, a kind of backing off of this idea that we’re somehow going to reach out to the Iranians, that we going to have some kind rapprochement (ph) coming out of this recent swap of prisoners and the $6 billion that went back to the Iranians, which I always thought was a mistake. But it might have allowed us a kind of reset on where we were with Iran.
I do think the carrier battle group that’s being sailed into the region is a good idea, and it’s probably a signal to the Iranians. But yes, if you ask me, would I have at least mentioned state sponsors of terrorism? Yes, I would have mentioned it.
BENSON: I want to go back to 2005 and 2006, when the Bush administration was in office and so were you, there was famously the unilateral withdrawal of the Israelis from Gaza. They had to drag some of their own citizens (ph) out of their homes in Gaza, forcibly returning them to Israel and saying, we are going to give up the Gaza Strip over to the Palestinians.
Land for peace, this is a major concession on Israel’s behalf. That was under Ariel Sharon and that administration. The Bush administration supported that. Then Israel, of course, got nothing but terrorism thrown its direction for Gaza ever since.
There were the 2006 elections, where the people of Gaza elected Hamas. You said in 2017, you thought it was a mistake to allow Hamas to stand for election prior to being fully demilitarized.
I wonder now that we have a lot of retrospection on this, was it a mistake for Israel to give up Gaza in the first place and for the Bush administration to have supported that?
RICE: Well, you can never go back, really, and second guess a decision like that. I think that Ariel Sharon, by the way, who was no powderpuff when it came to —
RICE: — the defense of Israel, believed that it was the right thing to do.
I don’t think they wanted to govern Gaza any longer. It was in Israel’s interest to get out. And they not only gave up Gaza, they gave up four settlements around Gaza at the time. And I remember a story that I was told by the Israelis that Sharon actually went to Gaza to tell these Israeli settlers that they were going to have to leave the Gaza.
And one of them said, do you see this Mezuzah above my door? You personally nailed it there to tell me that I was doing the right thing to extend the State of Israel and now, you tell me to go home, to go — to go and leave this place that has been my home.
That shows what the Israelis went through to actually evacuate Gaza. And you’re right, what they got in return was Hamas, which continued its terrorist activities.
We did get for one moment a chance when I think the more moderate Palestinians in the West Bank might have seized that moment to make peace with Israel, but they didn’t. I still think it was probably a chance worth taking from the point of view of the Israelis, because as Sharon said, he did not want to rule over the Palestinians.
He made a famous speech in 2003 when he said, I have no desire to rule over Palestinians. And it means — and it pains me as a Jew, he said, that we’re going to have to give up parts of our land, our ancestral lands to achieve peace.
And so, the idea that the Israelis didn’t want to achieve peace — and you’re going to hear a lot of that this next weeks, that this is Israel’s fault, that the Israelis never really tried for peace. The Israelis tried for peace. I was just watching Tzipi Livni on television. Tzipi Livni was the foreign minister when I was secretary. And the Israelis tried everything.
I remember in the Gaza, they left these greenhouses that had been built by Israeli settlers. We, the United States, secured private funding to pay those settlers for the greenhouses. And do you know what happened, within weeks? Hamas destroyed those greenhouses, rather than let them be there for the Palestinians to be fed.
So, the one thing I would say to everybody is innocent Palestinians don’t deserve this. They don’t deserve, and they are not represented by a terrorist group that keeps them poor, that keeps them isolated by continuing their war on Israel. And when you start to hear now about the Palestinian cause, do not associate that cause with Hamas.
Hamas is a terrorist organization. PIJ is an Iranian-backed terrorist organization. And that’s what the focus has to be on over these next weeks.
BENSON: Dr. Rice, why is it, given the history that you just rehearsed and recapitulated, and many other examples — Yasser Arafat rejecting, what, 96 percent of what he asked for in another attempted land-for-peace negotiation. Israel tries. It’s rejected by the Palestinians. Palestinian terrorists attack Israelis. And a lot of people, including in the West, blame Israel. Every time.
Is that antisemitism, is that blind ideology, is it some combination thereof? I don’t understand it.
RICE: I don’t understand it either because I have and others have rehearsed this history many, many times. And Democrat and Republican presidents have tried to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Israelis have put peace offers on the table many, many times. And, as you just mentioned, they’ve been rejected. So, I don’t know why people want to blame Israel.
But I will say this. This time around, the way that Hamas carried out this particular attack — this wasn’t just some rockets fired into Israeli cities, this was as brutal and barbaric attack as one can imagine.
And maybe now this will really get the attention of the world to say, anybody who does that cannot be representing legitimate interests. So, maybe this time people will wise up and see Hamas and the terrorists for what they are.
BENSON: Madam Secretary, we only have a few minutes left. So quickly, there is a growing debate within conservative and Republican circles over Ukraine and continuing U.S. assistance to Ukraine against the aggression from Russia and the invasion from Russia. I understand some of the arguments on each side of it.
What case would you make, if you could, like an elevator pitch in a minute, to wavering people, left, right, and center about what America’s interests are in that war?
RICE: The United States has been the source of order in the international community now since the end of World War II. And because of that order, we’ve been able to see prosperity, we’ve been able to see the spread of democracy and we have been more secure. If we don’t do it, no one will.
And when you have a big power that wants to extinguish its smaller neighbor and that smaller neighbor simply says to you, give us the means to fight for ourselves. We’re not asking you to send American men and women, boots on the ground to help us. Just let us do the job. How can we say no in that circumstance? How can we do it morally? How can we do it in terms of our own interests?
And on the day that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are on their victory tour, if Ukraine is defeated, the president of the United States will have a lot of explaining to do if he has to look at the American people and say, I could have stopped that and I didn’t.
BENSON: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, finally, on a much happier note, huge football fan. We talked football last time you were on the show. Setting aside your various loyalties, and I know you have them, deep ones, what team is the best team in the NFL right now? And is that the same team that you were picking to win the Super Bowl?
RICE: I am not going to declare on the Super Bowl, just (inaudible) got a lot to go.
BENSON: Smart.
RICE: And look, the Denver Broncos are still — you know, there’s a lot of —
RICE: — the season ahead of us. OK. But I’d have to say if you had (ph) — right now, I’d say it’s the San Francisco 49ers.
BENSON: Right down the road here.
RICE: Right down the road. And I just have to note that there is this Stanford person on that team named Christian McCaffrey.
BENSON: Heard of him.
RICE: Yes. He’s pretty good. And the 49ers are pretty good. And so, right now, I would say the San Francisco 49ers are the best team in football.
BENSON: I think the Dallas Cowboys might agree, given what just happened.
RICE: Absolutely.
BENSON: Down the road here. Dr. Condoleezza Rice, she is the director of the Hoover Institution, our home base for the week here on “The Guy Benson Show.” She was the 66th Secretary of State of the United States of America under President George W. Bush, 2005 to 2009 in that role.
Madam Secretary, a real pleasure, thank you.
RICE: Pleasure to be with you. And we’re really glad you’re here at the Hoover Institution with us.
BENSON: We’re thrilled to be here.